Thursday, June 01, 2006

Good as a side dish

Last night I made a dent in the arugula pile (only a dent despite using about 10 cups of the stuff) with this recipe:
Tagliatelle with Creme Fraiche and Arugula, except I used the slightly wider Pappardelle noodle.

According to the little clipping that I found in my Savory folder, the recipe came from the famous London restaurant, The River Cafe. Right now, any recipe that calls for 10 cups of arugula gets my attention and the result? It was OK.

I think my subdued reaction to the dish came from the way I served it, as a main course--Brian and I each had a heaping plate of the noodles and also each had a whole steamed and chilled globe artichoke with garlic vinaigrette for dipping. I can imagine this being a wonderful side dish with, say, a grilled steak. The sour and bitter notes would be a great complement to the richness of a good meaty dish, but as a main course the flavors felt out of balance and I'm saying this from the perspective of one who loves sour and bitter foods.

The recipe calls for both creme fraiche and a hell of a lot of lemon juice and I thought it took the sour note too far. I'd cut the juice back from 1/2 C to 1/3 C. And after tasting the finished dish and feeling it lacked something, I stirred in a squashed clove of garlic which definitely boosted up the flavor factor and gave the dish a little depth.

So if you are looking for a pasta side for a meaty meal, I can recommend this (slightly altered) recipe:

Pappardelle with Creme Fraiche and Arugula
adapted from The River Cafe recipe, printed in some food magazine in the last year or so
Serves 6 as a side dish

1 cup creme fraiche (1 cup heavy cream with 1 T buttermilk stirred in, left out in a warm place overnight)
2 T finely grated fresh lemon zest (use your microplane grater here)
1/3 C fresh lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, chopped or pressed to a paste
12 oz dried egg Pappardelle (Trader Joe's makes a good kind)
10 cups loosely packed, coarsely chopped arugula
2 1/2 Cups of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (again, use the microplane grater)
salt and coarse black pepper

  1. Stir together creme fraiche, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic and 1 C of grated cheese.
  2. Cook Pappardelle in a big pot of salted water until al dente.
  3. Drain pasta and dump into a big bowl. Stir in arugula so that it has a chance to wilt a little. Stir in the creme fraiche mixture. Taste and add salt and pepper as needed.
  4. Top each serving with a generous amount of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve as a side dish.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Salad days

The arugula and lettuce in my garden have been cooperating nicely/growing at an insane rate and we are up to our ears in fresh leafy greens, far too many greens to be consumed with a nightly side salad (the spinach, however, has been uncooperative. Most of the seeds didn't germinate.)

The record breaking heat this past weekend gave us the perfect excuse to usher in Salad Days. I have mentioned before that I am a great fan of the main course salad, the kind of salad you find in France listed as a Salade Compose. Top some great vegetables with a protein source and a good dressing and you have my definition of bliss-on-a-plate. Yes, I often crave this more than chocolate.

Last week I made a version of a Nicoise salad--lots of greens, cucumber, hard boiled egg, olives, radishes and blanched green beans topped by a grilled piece of albacore tuna then drizzled with a garlic red wine vinaigrette. And Monday we had (pictured above) a Vietnamese style salad with fresh mango, grilled chicken, thin rice noodles, peanuts, mint, cilantro, vidallia onion and blanched green beans topping the greens/radishes/cucumber pile; the dressing was a nuoc cham sort of concoction (I didn't have quite enough lime juice so I added a splash of rice wine vinegar).

The nicest thing about these salads is the flexibility--the Nicoise lacked potatoes and tomatoes (no potatoes in the house, no worthy tomatoes available yet). The Vietnamese salad lacked fresh basil and shallots and the mango probably shouldn't have been there. Some asparagus or sugar snap peas would have been terrific in either salad. Roasted beets would have been great to add to the Nicoise. But it didn't matter because these salads cry out for improvisation.

My next attempt to deal with the onslaught of arugula (I picked another entire shopping bag full of the stuff yesterday--yikes!) comes tonight. I have a recipe for tagliatelle with creme fraiche and arugula that looks to be a good way to use a sizeable quantity of arugula without having to eat a salad as big as a pony. Report on the success (or failure) of said dish will be coming soon.